Pirate reliever Dauri Moreta had one of the best sliders in baseball last season and it could be the key to his success this season
When you take a glance at the Kevin Newman trade, it does not look good. The Pittsburgh Pirates traded a capable middle infield defender for a reliever, that being Dauri Moreta, with an ERA of 5.40 who gave up over two home runs every nine innings. Even if Newman wasn’t going to repeat his 2019 season offensively or his 2021 season defensively, the trade looks pretty unimpressive for the Pirates.
But that’s not the case. Sure, Moreta didn’t have a great 2022. His HR/9 of 2.35 was the second highest among all relievers last year, with fewer than five games started and the 15th highest single-season mark in the last five years. Moreta struggled, but there is a lot that could work in his favor going forward.
Specifically, that’s his slider, which could be his key to success moving forward. Moreta throws his slider in the mid-80s with less than 2000 RPM of spin. But he puts a ton of gyro spin on it, averaging out with an active spin rate of 24%. Moreta averaged just over 35 inches of vertical drop as well. Opponents couldn’t touch the pitch either, and that’s putting it lightly.
His slider induced a hard contact rate of 25%, but that’s far from the most impressive statistic. When batters did make contact, they had a batting average of just .103. Even then, he gave up just a single home run, leading to a .207 slugging percentage. Overall, this led to a .200 wOBA. But it’s not as if opponents ever made enough contact to put Moreta in a compromising position with his slider. They had a whiff rate of 48.9%, ranking 21st among pitchers last year and ranking above arms with pretty good sliders like Max Scherzer, Dylan Cease (who led all pitchers who threw sliders in run value), and Emmanuel Clase (third highest slider velocity in baseball last year).
Comparing the effectiveness of Moreta’s sinker to his slider is like comparing Barry Bonds in 2001 to Mario Mendoza in his second year with the Pirates. Believe it or not, but that’s not hyperbole, either. Moreta’s sinker was decimated to a .378 average, a .865 slugging percentage, and a .551 wOBA. In 2001, Bonds had a .328 average, a .863 slugging percentage, and a .537 wOBA. Meanwhile, Moreta’s slider held opponents to a .103 average, .207 slugging, and .200 wOBA. In 1975, Mendoza had a .180 average, .200 slugging percentage, and .205 wOBA.
Moreta’s slider is one of the best of its kind in the league and should be used more often. He only used it 24% of the time, compared to his sinker usage of 25.1% of the time. This could be a major key factor in a future Moreta breakout.